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The research collaboration with the Athletic Club playing in LALIGA is already well underway, and Eero Savolainen has visited Bilbao for the first data collection in July and August. One of the Athletic Club's top priorities for the collaboration is invisible monitoring and its development. The aim is to develop methods to use data from monitoring players' training loads to assess changes in player performance and fitness, so that players do not need to be tested too often.

-Tests themselves are burdensome for players and take time and resources of the parties involved. Instead, the use of invisible monitoring is done as a part of the team's normal training, so it only requires the use of GPS and heart rate monitors during training, says Eero.

-We will start working on this with female players first. There has been some previous research on the subject and some sport clubs are already using this method. Now the idea is to scientifically validate these methods in the Athletic Club environment, Eero adds.

At the core of collaborative research is a broad analysis of the data and to be able to capture the full potential of the collected data. Researchers from the University of Jyväskylä can also assist the Club in its analysis work as a resource that benefits both parties.

-At the top level, the focus is usually on shorter-term activities and the aim is to win the next game. Instead, in the research world, the time horizon is longer and the collection and use of data over a longer period of time provides the most value. It also allows us to build policies that will help the club to achieve its own goals, concludes Eero.Johanna-Ihalainen ja Eero-Savolainen

In the photo Johanna Ihalainen and Eero Savolainen.

Jyväskylä and Bilbao are a perfect match

The Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä holds a high international reputation, as demonstrated by the international Shanghai ranking, in which the faculty has been ranked among the best faculties in the field for several years.

- We've been doing more cooperation in sports research in the past years. There has also been success with the Shanghai ranking, which takes into account all the research we do in sport science, including our research in health and ageing. Our Vuokatti sports technology unit is a pioneer in sports research, says Johanna Ihalainen.

Eero Savolainen and Johanna Ihalainen were both involved in bringing the latest research expertise to the development of the Training Room concept implemented with KIHU, the University of Jyväskylä and Jamk University of Applied Sciences. The concept attracted interest also from the Athletic Club and now the Training Room concept is being used in the Bilbao.

-At the Athletic Club they built a similar type of physical space in their state-of-the-art training centre, where players are prepared for training and can also undergo various physical tests and rehabilitate injured players. They were interested in what we have done and learned in Jyväskylä, so that they can take these things into account when designing their own facility, says Eero Savolainen.
Eero-kuva-kentaltaPhoto from the Athletic Club's training field.

For the Eero and Johanna, it is particularly important that the research also supports practical applicability. Such collaborative projects therefore require a concrete approach from the researcher.

- I think the practical applicability of research is an important thing that we researchers sometimes forget and we sometimes have too long a time frame for things, which creates own challenges for collaborations, Johanna concludes.

However, the research cooperation with the Athletic Club is now well on track and will continue in the coming years. Jyväskylä-based clubs will also be part of the cooperation under the Erasmus+ Sport project. The aim of the project is to share knowledge between clubs to develop grassroots activities in coaching and club management.

- Finnish football will also learn from the cooperation in a concrete way through the Erasmus+ Sport project, and we are also in close dialogue with the Football Association of Finland, says Johanna.

Finally, of course, it would be interesting to hear what Finnish and Basque cultures look like from a football researcher's point of view?

- There are many cultural differences, especially in the way people in Finland and northern Spain approach life and football. I'd rather be there in Bilbao than here in the sleet and I'd also choose Bilbao food over Finnish food, laughs Eero.

More information about the research project:
Eero Savolainen, University of Jyväskylä
+358 50 577 5734 

This interview was made by our intern Petteri Itäranta with the aim to collect the whole picture of the football-related collaboration done between Jyväskylä, Athletic Club and the Spanish LALIGA. All articles were collected for a football-related ecosystem newsletter in collaboration with the University of Jyväskylä.